[p.245] III - CHRISTENING IN HONOUR OF OUR LADY

The devotion of the people of Gozo to Our Lady clearly demonstrated by the beautiful churches raised in her esteem and further testified through the multiform veneration accorded her, also found expression in the christening of new-born babies in her honour.

A survey derived from Baptism/Confirmation records[1] revealed that the number of marian names from about 9.9% in the beginning of the seventeenth century almost doubled to about 19.5% towards the close of the eighteenth. The survey for the years 1579 - 1603 is based on the birth registration at the matrice,[2] which for the time represents all Gozo. The survey covers only twenty-three years as registration for 1580, 1581 and 1585 is wanting. The marian names were then in decline for out of the 990 births registered between September 27, 1554 and January 13, 1575, 190 or 19.2% carried names related to Our Lady.

Marian names were naturally more common among females: 56 out of 333 or 16.8% between 1579 and 1603. Of these 24 were Maria, 11 Marietta, 9 Grazia, and 4 each Victoria, Laura and Speranza. It must be noted here [p.246] that both Grazia and Victoria appear before the wide diffusion of the devotion to Our Lady of Graces and to the Nativity about 1600. Only 12 out of 341 males or 3.5% carried Marian names during the same period: 8 were Mario, 3 Mariano and 1 Grazio.

The survey for the years 1699 - 1797 is not based on the registration of baptisms but on the confirmation registers[3] - this was done not only to facilitate the research but also to ,get a good cross-section of all Gozo. The dates refer to the year when the confirmation was administered, with the exception of 1784 which, for a closer to reality average, combines 1783 and 1785. All the confirmations carried out between 1699 and 1800 have been surveyed. The resulting table thus represent all Gozitan boys and girls that reached the age of confirmation during the eighteenth century. It is thus quite reliable. Percentages in appendix are given in round numbers.

During the whole of the eighteenth century christening in honour of Our Lady was rather stable: from 17% in the first quarter, up to 21% in the second, slightly down to 20% in the third and further down to 19.5% in the last quarter. 19.5% is also the overall average for the whole period. Percentages for single periods vary from 13.2% in 1716 to 23.9% in 1797 and to 24.5% in 1729.

Considering boys only: none had marian names in 1784 and 1797 while the highest number was reached in 1723 with 7.6%. The percentage among girls varies from 25% - exactly a quarter of those confirmed - in 1787 to 40.2% in 1797 and, higher still, to 40.6% in 1729.

In 1773, the year with the highest number, only 13 out of 756 boys or 1.7% had marian names. 4 were Grazio, 3 Carmine, 2 each Maruzzo and Rosario, and 1 each Mario and (Mariano. In the same year 307 out of 780 girls or 39.4% carried marian names: 211 Maria, 50 Grazia, 18 Modesta, 7 Victoria, 4 Carmina, 3 Annunziata, 2 Rosaria and 1 each Concetta and Regina. The percentages and names speak for themselves: enough to note the popularity of Our Lady of Graces among both sexes.

Other variation of the name of Mary missing from the two given lists are the following. For boys: Alonzo (1716+) and Mariuttio (1791-). For girls: Graziulla (1699+),Pulcheria (1699), Alonza (1716+), Candida (1723), Veneranda (1723), Dignamerita (1729), Loreta (1791-) and AnnaM'aria (1793).

CONCLUSION

History, probably, never quite repeats itself, yet it certainly affords a host of fascinating parallels. In the third millennium before the birth of Christ the Gozitan Neolithics worshipped Mother Nature, towards the be-ginning of the Christian era they adored Juno, the queen of the gods, in the following centuries they tendered their veneration to Mary, Queen of heaven and earth, destined by the Creator of nature himself to be Mother of God and of all mankind.

The deep devotion tendered by the Gozitans to Our Lady throughout the centuries was enhanced by none other than Our Lady herself. It all took place hundred years ago in the Assumption chapel of ta' Pinu. On June 22, 1883, Karmni Grima, a forty-five-year-old farmer woman from the neighbourhood, while passing in front of the chapel heard a mysterious voice [p.246] apparently coming from within: Come! Come! Come! As she paused in awe, the voice proceeded: Come today, for you will not be able to come back for a whole year. Karmni entered and knelt down in prayer All of a sudden, the same voice which she had heard before, and which apparently proceeded from the picture, spoke again in Maltese: Recite three Hail Marys in honour of the three days that my body rested in the tomb.

Since then, devotees from Gozo, Malta and abroad have never ceased to throng inside seeking the intercession of Our Lady of Ta' Pinu. The chapel soon grew into a sanctuary which slowly established itself as the centre of Marian devotion for the whole Maltese archipelago. No wonder. Hundred years afterwards the chapel is still radiant with the touch of Our Lady's choice!

MARIAN CHURCHES 1600 1800
Number refers to location in the chart given on the following page

Location - Dedication
Location - Dedication
1
Castello - Assumption (Matrice)
25
Għammar - Assumption (ta' Pinu)
2
Savina (Rabat) - Nativity
26
Wied Sara Annunciation
3
Saqqaja (Rabat) - Annunciation
27
Wied il-Għasri Nativity (Ħġieri)
4
Tomba (Rabat) Snow
28
Żebbuġ - Assumption
5
Għajn Xejba (Xaghra) - Assumption
29
Marsalforn - Assumption
6
Madliena - Assumption (ta' Korvel)
30
Għajn Meddew - Annunciation
7
Għasri Nativity (ta' De Manueli)
31
Forn il-Ġir (Rabat) - Graces
8
Qortin (Sannat) Assumption
32
Forn il-Ġir (Xlendi?) - Visitation
9
Belliegħa (Rabat) - Visitation (Ġilju)
33
Qala - Assumption/Immaculate Conception
10
Rabat - Succour
34
Mġarr ix-Xini Assumption
11
Rabat (Hodig)Itria
35
Għajn Qatet Annunciation
12
Tomba (Rabat) Annunciation
36
Rabat Pietá
13
Dbieġi - Assumption
37
COMINO - Assumption/Return Egypt
14
Għajn Meddew Assumption
38
Qabbieza Assumption
15
Marsalforn Assumption
39
Għajn Ħozna (Xagħra) - Visitation
16
Wied Sara (Rabat) - Assumption
40
Qasam (Marsalforn) - Assumption
17
Wied il-Għasri - Assumption (Cini)
41
Qabbieża Immaculate Conception (Warda)
18
San Dimitri (Għarb) - Assumption
42
Wied il-Mielaħ - Assumption (Apap)
19
Santu Pietru (Għarb) Assumption
43
Rabat Immaculate Conception
20
Għarb Visitation (tal-Virtú)
40
Xagħra Nativity
21
Ħamrija (Xewkija) Assumption
45
Għarb – Visitation
22
Ramla – Joys (Ta’ Gajdoru)
46
Rabat Light
23
Qasam tal-Għeżien – Assumption
47
Wied il-Għasri – Patronage
24
Dwejra – Assumption
48
Blat (Qala) – Immaculate Conception

[p.248] GOZO



[1] This survey was partly compiled by the Assistant Archivist at the Gozo Curia Canon Louis Camilleri - to whom my acknowledgments and thanks.

[2] AEG, Acta Parrocchialia, Matrice‑Cathedral, Liber Baptizatorum 1 (1554-1603).

[3] AEG, Confirmationes 1 (1699-1785); 2 (1791-1890).